How to Prepare Freight Shipments

Freight shipments can include combinations of palletized items, boxes that are too large to ship using other UPS services, or multiple non-palletized pieces. UPS Worldwide Express FreightSM, however, cannot accept non-palletized freight shipments, and these shipments carry certain weight restrictions. UPS will otherwise accept freight shipments of any weight. However, minimum weight charges apply.

Shipping with UPS Worldwide Express Freight

UPS Worldwide Express Freight is an air freight service, available through WorldShip, UPS Internet Shipping and UPS CampusShip, for palletized shipments over 150 pounds. For international shipments, the maximum weight of a pallet may vary by destination or origin. Freight shipments over 4,400 pounds require prior authorization. Pickup or drop-off must be scheduled for each UPS Worldwide Express Freight shipment using the UPS package shipping system, or by calling 1-800-782-7892.

Read UPS Tariff/Terms and Conditions of Services

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Determining If Freight Should Be Palletized

Palletized Freight
Palletizing freight helps multi-piece shipments remain together and provides increased protection from damage.  Each pallet, including its contents, is considered one piece.

Non-Palletized Freight
Loose items, such as boxes or containers that have not been secured to a pallet, are considered non-palletized freight.  Each loose item is considered one piece.

When considering whether to palletize your shipment, it is important to remember that minimum billable charges can affect the way your shipment is billed.

Example Freight Billable Weight: Minimum Billable Weight
Minimum Billable Weight
Number of Pieces
(Loose items)
Length EachWidth EachHeight EachWeight EachMinimum Billable WeightActual Weight

Dimensional Weight Domestic

Dimensional Weight InternationalBillable Weight
1010"10"10"14 lbs.151 lbs.140 lbs.52 lbs.
61 lbs.151 lbs.

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Palletizing Your Shipment

Pallets are portable rigid platforms used to consolidate shipments and allow for ease of freight movement. Quality pallets are commonly made of either wood or plastic and can weigh between 20 and 70 lbs. Pallets should be large enough to accommodate the shipment without overhang. Anything overhanging the pallet edges will be subjected to impacts that can result in punctures, abrasions, and compression damage.

UPS palletizes most freight shipments for ease of movement. For air freight shipments, if your non-palletized shipment does not meet the minimum billable weight per piece, consider palletizing prior to UPS pickup.

The following are basic step-by-step instructions for palletizing your freight for UPS Worldwide Express Freight, Air Freight and LTL shipments.

1. Select Pallets

  • Choose pallets large enough to prevent overhang of shipment pieces
  • Pallets must be sturdy enough to support the load
    • select pallets with closely spaced pallet deck boards
    • never exceed the rated capacity of your pallet
  • Do not select pallets with broken boards or protruding nail heads
  • Pallets with four-way forklift entry are preferred as they help to improve handling and reduce damage to the shipment

2. Stack Boxes on Pallet

For shipments that contain boxes or stackable pieces

  • Ensure cartons are new and of proper strength to withstand stacking
  • Securely close, staple and/or seal cartons
  • Protect product from internal vibration with proper amounts of dunnage within cartons; leave no void areas/spaces between product or on top of carton
  • Affix labels, with complete address information for the shipper and the consignee, to each piece
  • Align boxes in columns, corner to corner, for the greatest stacking strength
  • Avoid interlocking or rotating layer patterns
  • Do not align corners over the spaces between pallet deck boards
  • Boxes should not extend past the pallet edges
  • Do not pyramid the boxes; keep the top layer flat to prevent damage from top loads
  • Use a slip sheet under the load and every third layer when possible to help distribute the weight evenly and protect the bottom layer

3. Secure Shipment to Pallet

Use strapping or banding to secure your shipment to the pallet, and stretch wrap (use a minimum of 60 gauge, five revolutions recommended) to prevent pieces from getting lost or separated from the load.

4. Label Shipment

Label each pallet with telephone numbers and complete address information including postal code of the shipper and the consignee. For UPS Worldwide Express Freight, label each pallet with a label on each side of the pallet and on top of the pallet with telephone numbers and complete address information, including the postal code of the shipper and the consignee.

Palletizing your shipment

Note: Pre-authorization is required for air freight shipments that exceed any of the following (length, width, and height limits below do not apply to UPS Worldwide Express Freight):

  • 120" length
  • 84" width
  • 76" height
  • or 5,000 lbs. weight (4,400 lbs. for UPS Worldwide Express Freight shipments)
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Protecting Your Palletized Shipment from Damage

1. Use Top/Bottom Load Protector

Load protectors are layers of corrugated fiberboard or heavy paperboard that help to evenly distribute the weight of shipments that can be stacked upon one another.

2. Use Corner/Edge Boards

Corner boards increase vertical stacking strength, prevent damage to corner edges, and stabilize the load. They should extend to the full height and length of the load, and should be used on all corners.

3. Use Stretch Wrapping

Stretch wrapping is an effective way to keep all pieces of a shipment together. The plastic stretch wrap should first be applied around the pallet and continued upward around the load.

  • Must be tight to prevent load shifting
  • Capture the pallet when wrapping bottom layer
  • Can be twisted like rope for greater strength

Stretch wrap is designed to stabilize the load, not to secure it to the pallet. Strapping or banding should be used in conjunction with stretch wrap to secure the load to the pallet.

4. Use Strapping or Banding

Strapping prevents pieces from getting lost or separated from the load. It should be drawn tightly to the load which may require running it underneath the top deck boards of the pallet.

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Preparing Non-Palletized Freight

If you do not plan to secure your shipment to pallets, follow these steps:

  1. Ship freight in corrugated boxes, crates, or shipping containers when possible.
  2. Use a container strong enough to support the weight of contents, and consider double boxing.
  3. If you are reusing containers, remove all old labels, tags, and markings. Avoid reusing boxes.
  4. Use at least two inches of appropriate cushioning material to protect internal items from each other and the corners, sides, top, and bottom of containers. Appropriate cushioning material may include corrugated fiberboard, multiple layers of folded newspaper, styrofoam sheets, or packing blankets, depending on the shipment contents.
  5. Reinforce edges to protect from bending.
  6. Securely seal closures and seams with reinforced tape.
  7. Label each piece with telephone numbers and complete address information, including postal code of the shipper and the consignee.

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Preparing for Pickup

Pickup is included in all air and LTL freight services. Your freight pickup request is initiated when you Create a Shipment for freight on

Note: Some shipment pickup requests require pre-authorization. Refer to the UPS Air Freight Terms and Conditions of Contract or to UPS Freight's Rules and Charges.

Read UPS Freight's Rules and ChargesOpen the link in a new window

Read UPS Air Freight Terms and Conditions of Contract

Label Freight Pieces

Each piece of palletized or non-palletized freight must be clearly marked with telephone numbers and complete address information including postal code of the shipper and the consignee. Indicate on freight labels if any pieces require Check to Shipper (C.O.D.) service.

Print the Air Waybill

The air waybill is generated when you Create a Shipment for freight on It is a required shipping document that provides shipment details including destination, shipper, and type of delivery service. The air waybill serves as instructions for UPS and as a receipt for the shipper.

Use a laser printer to print three copies of the waybill.

  1. One copy must be signed and given to the pickup driver.
  2. The second must be signed and attached to the shipment.
  3. The third should be retained for your records.

Prepare for Driver Arrival

Shipments should be ready for pickup at the time indicated by the shipper. Shipments should also be in a location easily accessible to the freight pickup driver and vehicle.

Schedule a Freight Shipment for Pickup

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UPS Freight Less-than-Truckload (“LTL”) transportation services are offered by TFI International Inc., its affiliates or divisions (including without limitation TForce Freight), which are not affiliated with United Parcel Service, Inc. or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries or related entities (“UPS”). UPS assumes no liability in connection with UPS Freight LTL transportation services or any other services offered or provided by TFI International Inc. or its affiliates, divisions, subsidiaries or related entities.